As the global economy lurches on waves of successive lockdowns, industries across the board are changing their approach to workforce planning, taking on fewer permanent employees and hiring freelancers to accommodate spikes in demand.
Global problem: On-demand solution
Since the start of the pandemic, many businesses have been forced to make painful redundancies in order to survive. Capacity is stretched to the maximum and easily overwhelmed. With no immediate prospect of a vaccine and virus cases on the rise, permanent hiring processes are being cancelled or frozen. Research conducted by McKinsey in May 2020 found that 67% of chief officers and functional leaders anticipate spending less on permanent hiring in the next 12 months.
This widespread lack of capacity, however, means an ever-growing pile of business-critical projects is building up. Some can be put on hold for now. Others – such as the raft of digital transformation programmes that are essential for survival – can’t. This is why many businesses are starting to turn to freelance consultants and analysts. The good news is that because freelancing is a well-trodden career path – hybrid staffing has been a staple model in management consulting for years – there’s a wealth of generalist and industry-expert talent out there, ready and waiting to be tapped.
In the short term, freelance consulting and analytical support will help stabilise businesses and allow them to drive forwards as the global economy recovers. In the long term – as indicated by a Deloitte Insights report exploring the connection between financial performance and digital maturity – flexible, contingent talent models will become core to workforce planning and fundamental to business success.
Freelance and independent analysts and consultants: The benefits of on-demand hiring
Speed, Productivity, Cost-effectiveness: You can build bespoke teams and get them up and running as quickly as required; you can engage support for the time a project takes - notice periods are short so if a project is cancelled or put on hold, you don’t lose out.
Diversity, Precision, Adaptability: You can draw from a wider pool of talent - engaging consultants or analysts whose experience comes from another firm or industry can offer a different perspective and add significant value to your project and your wider business; you can be laser-focussed as to the project-specific skills and knowledge you require; as freelance analysts and consultants are used to working in different contexts you can be confident that they upskill and integrate quickly, adding value from day one.
Reach and Scale: Remote working – often viewed with suspicion pre-pandemic – has now been thoroughly road-tested. With reports of increased productivity and many workers delighted to be spared a commute, remote working looks likely to continue after the pandemic is over - indeed Facebook expects about half of its workforce would work remotely over the next 5-10 years. If the perfect consultant is based in a different city or country, it doesn’t matter – they can still join the team tomorrow. Where previously lack of office space may have meant that - for example hiring 30 analysts for three weeks to frontload a business-critical strategy project isn’t possible - remote working means this is no longer the case.
Finding interim support
In order to take advantage of on-demand freelance support, you need to have strong networks in place - networks who can deliver quality at speed. The current market is sadly saturated with people looking for work and this can actually make it much harder to find the right talent and to date most companies looking for top calibre freelance talent on-demand have focussed on building partnerships with a trusted supplier who understands their business and project needs in detail.
Since the start of the pandemic we’ve placed hundreds of analysts and consultants on business-critical projects – from major digital transformations to market mapping and product scoping to commercial due diligence. If you’d like to talk to us about consulting or analytical support, please reach out to Thom Cunningham-Burley (Director, Consulting).